Craving defines taste. Some people crave the essential, others the whimsical. Still others want to express life on their own terms, an intuitive flow in determinant form. Over a lifetime that may be a restless progression expressing individuality, power, prestige, or just simple beauty.
But … it is because we crave something specific that there is a fine line between the priceless and the worthless. So it is also, that the most critical weapon in the professional jeweler’s arsenal doesn’t come in a toolkit or box. The creation must be craved.
Not that that is untrue of mass production jewelry. There is a certain sort of art to designing a piece that can be copied again and again even if that makes the world a bit predictable. On the plus side, that also means that the shopper gets an opportunity to see how the piece looks on a live model, even if it is on an acquaintance’s hand or neck.
On the downside, while that might make mass-produced jewelry seem ‘safe,’ the same rule applies. The creation must be craved. Production jewelry comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, most of which are not on the recipient’s wish list. Consequently, it’s not only not necessarily the case that production jewelry will make a safe gift, it seldom does.
By contrast with mass-market jewelry, designer and custom jewelry tends to be carefully tailored to the craving of the buyer. Each piece may be unique, one of a kind creations impossible to copy. Mass produced jewelry isn’t necessarily bad—it may be exactly what you want—but it is common and a bit monotonous. In that sense, mass market jewelry maximizes profit to the jewelry store, not your satisfaction.
Likewise, the quality of designer and custom jewelry tends to be higher than mass market jewelry, for much the same reason that “Mom’s Diner” may not be the best choice for lunch. The designer’s reputation goes along with the piece. The designer’s future depends on using the specified materials and the quality of the piece is commonly guaranteed. Designer pieces tend to come with signatures, trademarks, certifications of authenticity, and reliable provenance. Mass market pieces come from a factory.
Custom and designer jewelry doesn’t always cost more, either. Most of the price of retail jewelry is in the carrying charges. A big store might wait months or years for a customer that actually likes a particular piece.
Buying with an eye to long term value also favors designer and custom jewelry. The price of mass produced jewelry is mostly overhead. Buyers often pale at the magnitude of resale shock. After all, there’s what you have to pay for a piece at retail versus what someone who wanted to sell it would pay you for it.
By comparison, the price of custom jewelry is concentrated in artistry. Art often appreciates in value over time, so twenty, thirty, or a hundred years down the road, heirloom or museum quality jewelry is often worth much more than you paid for it, while mass-market jewelry may only be worth the value of the commodity materials used to make it. Mass market jewelry can sometimes be cheaper, but that’s not everything.
Jewelry is a deeply personal choice that expresses our sense of ourselves. As with all personal decisions, it’s best not to take it lightly. The most expensive piece of jewelry is the unwanted one.
Lynn Barber can be found regularly contributing to fashion blogs sharing her unique insights and giving useful real world advice. If you’re looking to get some designer jewelry for yourself, Lynn recommends shopping at a reputable store with both online and physical brick and mortar locations such as Denver based Vertu.net.